What does “right of representation” or “per stirpes” mean?

 In Blog, Estate Planning, Estate Planning

In a will or trust, people often leave their assets to their children “by right of representation” or “per stirpes.” Per stirpes means “by branch” in Latin, referring to family branches that begin with your children.

It is a method of distribution to efficiently divide your assets among your descendants after you’re gone. (This method is distinguished from “per capita” or “per capita by generation.”)

How does it work?

The property is divided into equal shares for each of the following:

  • Living children
  • Deceased children with their own living issue (“issue” means children, grandchildren, etc.)

Each living child gets one share. Each share set aside for a deceased child with living issue is divided in the same way as described above. No share is allocated to a deceased child with no living issue.


Person A dies, having left their property to Child 1 (living), Child 2 (deceased but leaving issue), and Child 3 (deceased, leaving no issue) by right of representation. Here’s how it plays out:

  • Child 1 gets one half (1/2)
  • Child 2’s issue gets one half (1/2) to split between them*
  • No share is allocated to Child 3 (because Child 3 is deceased and they left no issue)

*Child 2’s 50% share is subsequently divided among his or her issue. You can simply start over and do the same analysis for this portion.

The above distribution system makes sense because it always guarantees that a person’s share is divided equally among their children/issue if they have any, and their siblings if they do not.

Helix Law Firm can help with estate planning

You have numerous options when it comes to leaving your assets to your beneficiaries. If you’re not sure what to do, we can sit down with you and help you figure out the best distribution method for your situation.

If you’re interested in learning more, please call us at (619) 567-4447 to schedule a free consultation.

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